Tuesday 27 March 2012

Testing Times

The thing with fitting a modern engine with an ECU, is that they need programming or “mapping”. The ECU comes with a “base map” which will get the engine running, but not very well, it needs tuning - messing with & for that you need to go to a rolling road.

Good establishments take on the aura of a wizard’s cave & the denizens that reside within are clever blokes – don’t get me wrong – but dealing with us mere mortals seems to make them believe their own powers are somewhat god-like rather than those of a geek with oily fingernails & a need to insert the “f-word” into each & every sentence.

 But I’m getting ahead of myself, this saga is a long one, so get comfy.

I'd been driving the Fury for a week & a half, to make sure it was reliable, not prone to overheating, battery was charging, all those basic things. At last the day of the rolling road arrived & at 12:00 I left work & set off. Things did not go well. I hadn't even got to the M25 when the car lost power & stopped. It did exactly what it did when I first had it on the road with the crossflow, but that was a distributer problem, the new engine hasn’t got one of those. After a few minutes rest it started & seemed OK, but stopped again after about three miles - and so it went on. I'd decided to abort the mission & go home, so pulled up off of the motorway where at least I could think without the trucks hurtling past, but in the event decided I'd carry on, what ever the car’s ill was would be best fixed when I got there. I wondered if at constant high speed, exhaust heat was being drawn into the unfinished air intake & sending the inlet air temp sender out of range, so I took off the duct & it seemed much better - lasted ten minutes this time.

I managed to limp through the inevitable road works without stopping (just) & gave it a long rest at some services. Then (with only two more stops) got into some traffic. Dilemma:- do I sit in the inside lane which is near stationary but has easy access to the hard shoulder, or move to one of the outer lanes in the hope of moving faster & so keeping the engine cooler. I decided to try the latter (I was an hour late by now) & shortly afterwards had to push the car across the slow moving juggernaut lane to get onto the last four feet of hard shoulder before two motorways joined! Eek!

It stopped again just as I was passing a pull-in for an electrical sub-station, so knowing the guys at the rolling road would need the side pod off for access to the lambda, I took it off there & then in the hope that maybe the lambda was going out of range in the heat of the enclosed pod. That took 15 mins or so & I managed to get through a tunnel (phew) & the last couple of miles in one hop.

Then the problems started. As I mentioned at the top the guys surely know there stuff, but one of them is either the most arrogant bloke I've ever come across, was having a REALLY bad day, or took an instant dislike to me & my car. NOTHING it seemed was right about it, from the low pressure pump fuel pump (wrong way up) to the swirl pot ("that's just an old catch tank, tch"), to the high pressure fuel pump (should be at the back) to the throttle bodies (not designed for this application - just all wrong) to the vacuum pipes for the pressure reg (don't need those) to the exhaust (for the road, that should be 4-2-1). If I hadn't been so exhausted from my journey, I'd have shoved his rollers AND his tie down straps where the sun don’t shine & left for home. Apparently he's "used to working on LMP cars", yes well, I’m sure we’d all like those facilities & budget. As I said, don’t get me wrong, they certainly knew their stuff, & a lot of the points they made had merit – but there are ways of bringing these things to the attention of a customer & then there’s being just plain insulting, yes?

Anyway, they loaded a map, then the car wouldn't start at all. They re-loaded the map I'd arrived with, & it started but there were obvious problems. A fuel pressure gauge was fitted & showed low & fluctuating pressure. After a while’s head scratching I realised the low pressure pump wasn't ticking. I thumped it in the time honoured fashion, & it stayed not ticking. There were dark mutterings from the gurus at the front of the car about unreliability & wasted time. Then I realised that this had been the problem all the way there. With the low pressure pump dead, the high pressure pump would operate gravity fed until there was a partial vacuum in the tank, but high pressure pumps don't suck, so it was unable to open the vent valve, so was starved of fuel. Just opening the lever on the top of the petrol cap would've done the trick if I hadn't been so fixated on heat.

There was talk of finding another LP pump to enable the session to go ahead, but they didn't have one, then just as all seemed lost, I hit the errant pump once more (well, you would wouldn't you) & it went tick tick ........... tick ............ tick tick tick ........... tickatickatickaticka. We were away. Another three hours (& a great deal more moaning) later the car was mapped & had a graph showing 160bhp at 7000 RPM, & 135ft/lb torque. A nice flat torque curve ("would've been better with a 4-2-1") & to their credit the guys refused to take any money until I'd driven it up the road & was happy with it. The journey home was wonderfully uneventful, seldom have I enjoyed a dull motorway drive so much.

The car now feels good, though there is sometimes still a little hesitation when the throttle is pressed & I’ve got a little tidying still to do, but it should be OK for the road trip next month.

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